Semester of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Science (MS)



Document Type



Framed in Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory, the current study examined the moderating effects of mindfulness and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on the relationship between behavioral inhibition system (BIS) sensitivity and psychological distress. Participants (N=183) were college students at a large public university in the Southeastern United States. Data were collected using an online survey with self-report questionnaires that demonstrated acceptable reliability. Data analysis utilized multiple linear regression models to test study hypotheses. Findings revealed a significant positive relationship between BIS sensitivity and psychological distress, with mindfulness and MVPA significantly moderating this association. Specifically, increased reports of mindfulness and MVPA related to lower psychological distress for participants with higher than average BIS sensitivity. Mindfulness was especially effective at minimizing psychological distress for these individuals. This study expanded upon current Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory literature by examining the moderating effects of two emotional regulation strategies on BIS sensitivity and psychological distress. Findings from this study suggest that mindfulness and MVPA are unique strategies that buffer the link between BIS sensitivity and psychological distress. Understanding subpopulations of college students with increased risk for psychological distress (i.e., those with high BIS sensitivity) and identifying diverse strategies that effectively lower this risk (i.e., mindfulness; MVPA) can be used to develop targeted interventions that reduce psychopathology and promote mental health. Similarly, mindfulness and MVPA are potentially empowering strategies that college students can learn to adopt, implement, and manage on their own.

Committee Chair

Garn, Alex